Recently, this headline, “Exercise can make you gain weight," caught my attention. I was sure it was only meant to shock and persuade the reader to react the way I did (and read on), but it concerned me for the person who only scans the magazine titles and doesn’t get the whole story.  With so much false information out there about fitness and weight loss, I want to take this opportunity to clarify just how exercise affects “weight."

First of all, “weight” is a general term. We must first decide what we are weighing. When we step on a scale, we are weighing fat, bones, skin, muscle, organs, etc… So, when we talk about losing fat, we obviously can’t only judge that by the scale.  There’s no way to differentiate between all these body components. That said, a scale is NOT a good way to measure your fitness progress. Period.

Second, fat weighs less than muscle. The goal of any fat loss program should be to gain lean muscle since more muscle creates a higher metabolic rate and a greater calorie burn. If you’re doing this right and you add lean muscle to your body, you will burn more fat and you might add a pound or two on the scale. But, again, I return to the second paragraph and remind you the scale also reflects muscle weight, not just fat. Don’t freak out if you gain a pound or two when you’re participating in a weight training program. If you’re lifting two to three days a week, doing cardio three days and eating balanced meals, you’re investing in the greatest fat burn your body can achieve.

The scale is useless. Only you know how much you weigh. If I told you I found a deal - twenty for one hundred dollars - you’d ask, “Twenty what?" That’s my point. The scale will give you a number, but it won’t tell you what it’s weighing. So, put it away.  Eat healthy, lift weights and walk incessantly! That’s real progress.

Jeff Howerton is a trainer and owner of LEAN personal training, where he and his trainers work with clients to lose fat, develop lean muscle and implement strategies for healthier living. LEAN (615) 279-1900 or

This article has been republished from Out & About Nashville, and was part of a series of first-person pieces written by the late Bobbi Williams.

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